A photograph of Saturday's Melbourne protest taken by the organisers (Image: Supplied)

On Saturday, large crowds attended a “rally for health and freedom” that was led by organisers from an anonymous Telegram account, a largely unmoderated social media platform embraced by fringe groups. 

At the Melbourne rally involving mainstream politicians, the threat of political violence loomed large. Protestors carried prop gallows. A speaker chanted “Hang Dan Andrews”. Known members of violent, extremist groups like the Proud Boys were active participants in the event. 

Ostensibly the protest was about a new pandemic law and vaccine mandates, but the protesters’ grievances went beyond that. Signs, shirts and other paraphernalia showed that participants also held other conspiratorial or fringe beliefs including being part of anti-vaccine and QAnon movements.